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Barn owl project set to spread wings

PUBLISHED: 10:49 09 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 01 August 2010

A CONSERVATION project aimed at protecting barn owls in north Suffolk has been so successful that it is going to be rolled out across the county.

The Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project has already seen 700 nesting boxes put up in north east Suffolk, and frequent monitoring has shown that the number of breeding pairs has increased from 100 in 2007 to about 300 last year.

A CONSERVATION project aimed at protecting barn owls in north Suffolk has been so successful that it is going to be rolled out across the county.

The Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project has already seen 700 nesting boxes put up in north east Suffolk, and frequent monitoring has shown that the number of breeding pairs has increased from 100 in 2007 to about 300 last year.

Now the volunteers behind the project, which is a joint initiative between Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the Suffolk Ornithologist's Group, are hoping to extend the programme across a wider area.

More than 170 volunteers are already with the scheme, including helping landowners to install barn owl nest boxes, monitoring about 1,000 boxes and recording the findings.

Project manager Steve Piotrowski said that owls take readily to properly-sited nest boxes.

He said: “Currently the barn owl population is concentrated in north east Suffolk. Over the next five years we aim to consolidate and increase barn owl densities in east Suffolk and extend its range into the west of the county.

“We'll do this by putting up more barn owl boxes - when the nesting sites are there, the barn owl will follow. We'd also like to run box cams with live footage of barn owl chicks on our website.”

The project, which recently won the landscape and biodiversity accolade in Suffolk's Creating the Greenest County Awards, is now working with other organisations from across the UK to show how species like barn owls can be protected.

Mr Piotrowski said that ensuring barn owls have the correct habitat is vital for their survival as the number of available nesting sites has decreased in recent years. Hollow trees have reduced in number following Dutch Elm disease and barns have often been sealed up or converted into homes.

He said: “We will be pressing for the creation of more rough grassland - ideal habitat for voles on which barn owl feed - through representation on the National Farmers Union's Campaign for the Farmed Environment.”

The project is already actively involved with local businesses and schools and runs an Adopt a Barn Owl nest Box scheme to give people the chance to sponsor an existing next box.

For more information about the project, follow the links from www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org.

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